Alaska News Nightly: January 3, 2011

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Crews Restore Power in Savoonga
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
The St. Lawrence Island community of Savoonga has power after days of power loss from freezing salt spray that caused arching when lines became heavy with ice and slapped together.  But Alaska Village Electric Cooperative President Meera Kohler says there are still intermittent outages.

Kohler says AVEC is trying to find a de icing material that is benign enough to use on the lines and hardware without exposing the workers or Savoonga residents to harmful chemicals.

The state Department of Homeland Security is also monitoring the situation and will assess damage and next steps for repairs to broken water infrastructure.

Bering Sea Storm Blows Warm Air Over Interior
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
A storm along the Bering Sea coast has been bringing warm air over the interior.  National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Cox in Fairbanks says the coastal blizzard resulted in a classic Chinook pattern.

Cox says the Chinook brought strong winds and some record high temperatures.

Cox says weather is moving back toward normal with lesser winds, and cooling temperatures.

Website Aims to Help People Learn Eyak Language
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
A new website launched on January first seeks to help people learn the Eyak language through weekly words and help from linguistic experts. The language of the Eyak people of the Cordova area is considered extinct. The last fluent speaker, Chief Marie Smith Jones died in 2008. Alaska Native linguistics expert Dr. Michael Krauss documented the language in such meticulous detail that it was possible for someone to learn Eyak. The question became would people do so?

The website’s project director Laura Bliss Spaan says she first met Chief Marie 20 years ago and was struck by the story of the disappearing Eyak language. Bliss Spaan worked with Chief Marie and Dr. Krauss, helping to document the sound and inflection of the Eyak language. When they put together language kits, they had an unusual request for one from a young man in France, who became fascinated by the Eyak language at age 12. Bliss Spaan says the young man, Guillaume Leduey now speaks Eyak fluently and last year came to Alaska.

Chief Marie’s granddaughter Sherry Smith says her grandmother said the language would come back through the children or through a person from afar. Smith says she’s working to make sure her 18-month-old daughter carries out the first part of that vision.

Smith says the young Frenchman Guillaume, will be helping out with lessons on the new website, assisting with difficult pronunciations.

Smith says it’s crucial to use the language and modernize it for relevant use today, developing words for computer, cell phone and other present day items.

Johansen, Millett Facing Strong Opposition From Many in House Majority Caucus
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
The next few weeks should show whether Representatives Kyle Johansen of Ketchikan and Charisse Millett of Anchorage will have any power in the Legislature.

Both are trying to rejoin the House Majority Caucus they left during a committee-assignment battle. But the pair faces strong opposition from at least some former friends in the chamber.

Energy Authority Seeking 50-Year Plan for Projects
Joe Viechnicki, KFSK – Petersburg
The Alaska Energy Authority is seeking companies to write a 50-year plan for energy projects and transmission lines in Southeast Alaska.

The Integrated Resource Plan will take about a year to complete and will help communities seek state funding for new power projects. Jim Strandberg is project manager with the AEA.

The AEA has already completed a similar plan for communities in the Railbelt. Strandberg says the Southeast planning process will include opportunities for public input. He says the AEA will hold a technical conference sometime in the spring to discuss the energy issues in Southeast.

The new document will also update an existing regional plan for transmission lines. Petersburg, Wrangell, Ketchikan and Saxman are already connected…and older plans call for connecting Kake, Metlakatla and other communities to the power grid. Work is underway to study the link between Petersburg and Kake. The new plan will identify which transmission lines and new power projects need to be built. It will also look at whether some communities may be too remote and too costly to connect to the regional power grid and whether there are renewable energy sources nearer those towns that would be a better option.

The new planning document is expected to cost as much as $400,000. The state appropriated half a million dollars for the effort this past year.

The deadline for firms to submit proposals to write the Integrated Resource Plan is Jan. 13. The AEA hopes an early list of capital projects could be completed in time for the start of the state budget process a year from now.

Abandoned Sea Otter Pup Finds New Home
Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer
A sea otter pup that was found abandoned and injured on a Homer beach in July has fully recuperated. “Mojo” – as he was named by the staff of the Alaska Sea Life Center – now has a new home and a new family.

Historic Vessel Used in Bristol Bay Salmon Fishery Still Sailing in California
Adam Kane, KDLG – Dillingham
More than 100 years ago, the primary link between Bristol Bay and the outside world was through very large sailboats that would make the long voyage north every spring and then head south again each fall before the ice returned.  One of the ships that used to sail to the Nushagak River from San Francisco every year was the Star of India. Surprisingly, the Star of India is still afloat and sail-ready today in San Diego, California. KDLG’s Adam Kane sheds some light on the interesting history of the vessel.

Alaskans Share Winter Survival Techniques
Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage
Every Alaskan knows that the severe weather of our state can easily result in challenging conditions outdoors. A recent statewide “Talk of Alaska” public radio program elicited a lot of comment from long-time bush Alaskans willing to share their winter survival techniques, and what it takes to be prepared for the unexpected when you cross the winter landscape.